The Sky Pilot in No Man's Land by Ralph Connor
Chapter V. The War Drum Calls
"Well, dad," said Barry next evening as they were sitting in the garden after tea, "I feel something like Mohammed's coffin, detached from earth but not yet ascended into heaven. It's unpleasant to be out of a job. I confess I shall always cherish a more intelligent sympathy henceforth for the great unemployed. But cheer up, dad! You are taking this thing much too seriously. The world is wide, and there is something waiting me that I can do better than any one else."
But the father had little to say. He felt bitterly the humiliation to which his son had been subjected.
Barry refused to see the humiliation.
"Why should I not resign if I decide it is my duty so to do? And why, on the other hand, should not they have the right to terminate my engagement with them when they so desire? That's democratic government."
"But good Lord, Barry!" burst out his father, with quite an unusual display of feeling; "to think that a gentleman should hold his position at the whim of such whippersnappers as Hayes, Boggs et hoc genus omne. And more than that, that I should have to accept as my minister a man who would be the choice of cattle like that."
"After all, dad, we are ruled by majorities in this age and in this country. That is at once the glory and the danger of democratic government. There is no better way discovered as yet. And besides, I couldn't go on here, dad, preaching Sunday after Sunday to people who I felt were all the time saying, 'He's no good'; to people, in short, who could not profit by my preaching."
"Because it had no pep, eh?" said his father with bitter scorn.
"Do you know, dad, I believe that's what is wrong with my preaching: it hasn't got pep. What pep is, only the initiated know. But the long and the short of this thing is, it is the people that must be satisfied. It is they who have to stand your preaching, they who pay the piper. But cheer up, dad, I have no fear for the future."
"Nor have I, my boy, not the slightest. I hope you did not think for a moment, my son," he added with some dignity, "that I was in doubt about your future."
"No, no, dad. We both feel a little sore naturally, but the future is all right."
"True, my dear boy, true. I was forgetting myself. As you say, the world is wide and your place is waiting."
"Hello! here comes my friend, Mr. Duff," said Barry in a low voice. "He was ready to throw Mr. McFettridge out of the meeting yesterday, body and bones. Awfully funny, if it hadn't been in church. Wonder what he wants! Seems in a bit of a hurry."
But hurry or not, it was a full hour before Mr. Duff introduced his business. As he entered the garden he stood gazing about him in amazed wonder and delight, and that hour was spent in company with Mr. Dunbar, exploring the garden, Barry following behind lost in amazement at the new phase of character displayed by their visitor.
"I have not had such a delightful evening, Mr. Dunbar, for years," said Duff, when they had finished making the round of the garden. "I have heard about your garden, but I had no idea that it held such a wealth and variety of treasures. I had something of a garden myself in the old country, but here there is no time apparently for anything but cattle and horses and money. But if you would allow me I should greatly like to have the pleasure of bringing Mrs. Duff to see your beautiful garden."
Mr. Duff was assured that the Dunbars would have the greatest pleasure in receiving Mrs. Duff.
"Do bring her," said Barry, "and we can have a little music, too. She is musical, I know. I hear her sing in church."
"Music! Why, she loves it. But she dropped her music when she came here; there seemed to be no time, no time, no time. I wonder sometimes-- Well, I must get at my business. It is this letter that brings me. It is from an American whom you know, at least, he knows you, a Mr. Osborne Howland of Pittsburgh."
Mr. Dunbar nodded.
"He is planning a big trip up the Peace River country prospecting for oil and mines, and later hunting. He says you and your son engaged to accompany him, and he asks me to complete arrangements with you. I am getting Jim Knight to look after the outfit. You know Jim, perhaps. He runs the Lone Pine ranch. Fine chap he is. Knows all about the hunting business. Takes a party into the mountains every year. He'll take Tom Fielding with him. I don't know Fielding, but Knight does. Mr. Howland says there will be three of their party. Far too many, but that's his business. I myself am rather anxious to look after some oil deposits, and this will be a good chance. What do you say?"
Father and son looked at each other.
"It would be fine, if we could manage it," said Mr. Dunbar, "but my work is so pressing just now. A great many are coming in, and I am alone in the office at present. When does he propose to start?"
"In six weeks' time. I hope you can come, Mr. Dunbar. I couldn't have said so yesterday, but I can now. Any man with a garden like this, the product of his own planning and working, is worth knowing. So I do hope you can both come. By the way, Knight wants a camp hand, a kind of roustabout, who can cook--a handy man, you know."
"I have him," said Barry. "Harry Hobbs."
"Hobbs? Boozes a bit, doesn't he?"
"Not now. Hasn't for six months. He's a new man. I can guarantee him."
"You can, eh? Well, my experience is once a boozer always a boozer."
"Oh," said Barry, "Hobbs is different. He is a member of our church, you know."
"No, I didn't know. But I don't know that that makes much difference anyway," said Duff with a laugh. "I don't mean to be offensive," he added.
"It does to Hobbs, he's a Christian man now. I mean a real Christian, Mr. Duff."
"Well, I suppose there is such a thing. In fact, I've known one or two, but--well, if you guarantee him I'll take him."
"I will guarantee him," said Barry.
"Let me have your answer to-morrow," said Duff as he bade them good-night.
The Dunbars discussed the matter far into the night. It was clearly impossible for Mr. Dunbar to leave his work, and the only question was whether or not Barry should make one of the party. Barry greatly disliked the idea of leaving his father during the hot summer months, as he said, "to slave away at his desk, and to slop away in his bachelor diggings." He raised many objections, but one consideration seemed to settle things for the Dunbars. To them a promise was a promise.
"If I remember aright, Barry, we promised that we should join their party on this expedition."
"Yes," added Barry quickly, "if our work permitted it."
"Exactly," said his father. "My work prevents me, your work does not."
Hence it came that by the end of August Barry found himself in the far northern wilds of the Peace River country, a hundred miles or so from Edmonton, attached to a prospecting-hunting party of which Mr. Osborne Howland was the nominal head, but of which the "boss" was undoubtedly his handsome, athletic and impetuous daughter Paula. The party had not been on the trail for more than a week before every member was moving at her command, and apparently glad to do so.
The party were camped by a rushing river at the foot of a falls. Below the falls the river made a wide eddy, then swept down in a turbulent rapid for some miles. The landing was a smooth and shelving rock that pitched somewhat steeply into the river.
The unfortunate Harry, who after the day's march had exchanged his heavy marching boots with their clinging hobnails for shoes more comfortable but with less clinging qualities, in making preparation for the evening meal made his way down this shelving rock of water. No sooner had he filled his pail than his foot slipped from under him, and in an instant the pail and himself were in the swiftly flowing river.
His cry startled the camp.
"Hello!" shouted Duff, with a great laugh. "Harry is in the drink! I never knew he was so fond of water as all that. You've got to swim for it now, old boy."
"Throw him something," said Knight.
Past them ran Barry, throwing off coat and vest.
"He can't swim," he cried, tearing at his boots. "Throw him a line, some one." He ran down to the water's edge, plunged in, and swam toward the unfortunate Harry, who, splashing wildly, was being carried rapidly into the rough water.
"Oh, father, he will be drowned!" cried Paula, rushing toward a canoe which was drawn up on the shore. Before any one could reach her she had pushed it out and was steering over the boiling current in Barry's wake. But after a few strokes of her paddle she found herself driven far out into the current and away from the struggling men. Paula had had sufficient experience with a canoe to handle it with considerable ease in smooth water and under ordinary conditions, but in the swirl of this rough and swift water the canoe took the management of its course out of her hands, and she had all she could do to keep afloat.
"For God's sake, men, get her!" cried Brand. "She will be drowned before our eyes."
"Come on, Tom," cried Jim Knight, swinging another canoe into the water. A glance he gave at the girl, another at the struggling men, for by this time Barry could be seen struggling with the drowning Hobbs.
"Get in, Tom," ordered Knight, taking the stern. "We will get the men first. The girl is all right in the meantime."
"Get the girl!" commanded Brand. "For God's sake go for the girl," he entreated in a frenzy of distress.
"No," said Knight, "the men first. She's all right."
"Here," said Duff to Brand, pushing out the remaining canoe, "get into the bow, and stop howling. Those men are in danger of being drowned, but Knight will get them. We'll go for the girl."
It took but a few minutes for Knight and Fielding, who knew their craft thoroughly and how to get the best out of her in just such an emergency, to draw up upon Harry and his rescuer.
"Say, they are fighting hard," said Fielding. "That bloody little fool is choking the life out of Dunbar. My God! they are out of sight!"
"Go on," roared Knight. "Keep your eyes on the spot, and for Heaven's sake, paddle!"
"They are up again! One of them is. It's Barry. The other is gone. No, by Jove! he's got him! Hold on, Barry, we're coming," yelled Tom. "Stick to it, old boy!"
Swiftly the canoe sped toward the drowning men.
"They are gone this time for sure," cried Tom, as the canoe shot over the spot where the men had last been seen.
"Not much!" said Knight, as reaching out of the stern he gripped Barry by the hair. "Hold hard, Barry," he said quietly. "No monkey work now or you'll drown us all." Immediately Barry ceased struggling.
"Don't try to get in, Barry. We'll have to tow you ashore."
"All right, Jim," he said between his sobbing breaths. "Only-- hurry up--I've got him--here."
Knight reached down carefully, lifted Barry till his hand touched the gunwale of the canoe.
"Not too hard, Barry," he said. "I'll ease you round to the stern. Steady, boy, steady. Don't dump us."
"All right--Jim--but--he's under the water--here."
"Oh, never mind him. We'll get him all right. Can you hold on now?" said Knight.
"Yes--I think so."
"Now, for God's sake, Tom, edge her into the shore. See that little eddy there? Swing into that! You'll do it all right. Good man!"
By this time Knight was able to get Harry's head above water.
In a few minutes they had reached the shore, and were working hard over Harry's unconscious body, leaving Barry lying on the sand to recover his strength. A long fight was necessary to bring the life back into Harry, by which time Barry was sufficiently recovered to sit up.
"Stay where you are, Barry, until we get this man back to camp," ordered Knight. "We'll light a bit of a fire for you."
"I'm warm enough," said Barry.
"Warm enough? You may be, but you will be better with a fire, and you lie beside it till we get you. Don't move now."
"There's the other canoes coming," said Fielding. "They'll make shore a little lower down. They're all right. Say, she's handling that canoe like a man!"
"Who?" said Barry.
"Why, Miss Howland," said Fielding. "She was out after you like a shot. She's a plucky one!"
Barry was on his feet in an instant, watching anxiously the progress of the canoes, which were being slowly edged across the river in a long incline toward the shore.
"They'll make it, all right," said Knight, after observing them for a time. "Don't you worry. Just lie down by the fire. We'll be back in a jiffy."
In an hour they were all safely back in camp, and sufficiently recovered to discover the humorous points in the episode. But they were all familiar enough with the treacherous possibilities of rough and rapid water to know that for Hobbs and his deliverer at least, there had been some serious moments during their fierce struggle in the river.
"Another minute would have done," said Fielding to his friend, as they sat over the fire after supper.
"A half a minute would have been just as good," said Knight. "I got Barry by the hair under water. He was at his last kick, you bet! And that rat," he added, smiling good naturedly at Harry, "was dragging him down for the last time."
"I didn't know nothin' about it," said poor Harry, who was lying stretched out by the fire, still very weak and miserable. "I didn't know nothin' about it, or you bet I woudn't ha' done it. I didn't know nothin' after he got me."
"After you got him, you mean," said Fielding.
"I guess that's right," said Harry, "but I wouldn't ha' got him if he hadn't ha' got me first."
They all joined in the discussion of the event except Paula, who sat distrait and silent, gazing into the fire, and Barry, who lay, drowsy and relaxed, on a blanket not far from her side.
"You ought to go to bed," said Paula at length in a low voice to him. "You need a good night's sleep."
"I'm too tired to sleep," said Barry. "I feel rather rotten, in fact. I ought to feel very grateful, but somehow I just feel rotten."
"Can one be grateful and feel rotten at the same time?" said Paula, making talk.
"Behold me," replied Barry. "I know I am grateful, but I do feel rotten. I don't think I have even thanked you for risking your life for me," he added, turning toward her.
"Risking my life? Nonsense! I paddled 'round in the canoe for a bit, till two strong men came to tow me in, and would have, if I had allowed them. Thank the boys, who got you in time." She shuddered as she spoke.
"I do thank them, and I do feel grateful to them," said Barry. "It was rather a near thing. You see, I let him grip me. I choked him off my arms, but he slid down to my thigh, and I could not kick him off. Had to practically drown him. Even then he hung on."
"Oh, don't speak about it," she said with a shudder, covering her face with her hands. "It was too awful, and it might have been the end of you." Her voice broke a little.
"No, not an end," answered Barry, in a quiet voice. "Not the end by a long way, not by a very long way."
"What do you mean? Oh, you are thinking of immortality, and all that," said Paula. "It's a chilly, ghostly subject. It makes me shiver. I get little comfort out of it."
"Ghostly it is, if you mean a thing of spirits," said Barry, "but chilly! Why chilly?" Then he added to himself in an undertone: "I wonder! I wonder! I wish sometimes I knew more."
"Sometimes?" cried Paula. "Always!" she added passionately. "It's a dreadful business to me. To be suddenly snatched out of the light and the warmth, away from the touch of warm fingers and the sight of dear faces! Ah, I dread it! I loathe the thought of it. I hate it!"
"And yet," mused Barry, "somehow I cannot forget that out there somewhere there is One, kindly, genial, true,--like my dad. How good he has been to me--my dad, I mean, and that Other, too, has been good. Somehow I think of them together. Yes, I am grateful to Him."
"Oh, God, you mean," said Paula, a little impatiently.
"Yes, to God. He saved me to-day. 'Saved,' I say. It is a queer way to speak, after all. What I really ought to say is that God thought it best that I should camp 'round here for a bit longer before moving in nearer."
"Yes, into the nearer circle. Life moves 'round a centre, in outer and inner circles. This is the outer circle. Nearer in there, it is kindlier, with better light and clearer vision. 'We shall know even as we are known.'" Barry mused on, as if communing with himself.
"But when you move in," said Paula, and there was no mistaking the earnestness of her tone, "you break touch with those you love here."
"I don't know about that," answered Barry quickly.
"Oh, yes you do. You are out of all this,--all this," she swept her hand at the world around her, "this good old world, all your joy and happiness, all you love. Oh, that's the worst of it; you give up your love. I hate it!" she concluded with vehemence sudden and fierce, as she shook her fist towards the stars.
"Give up your love?" said Barry. "Not I! Not one good, honest affection do I mean to give up, nor shall I."
"Oh, nonsense! Don't be religious. Just be honest," said Paula, in a low, intense voice. "Let me speak to you. Suppose I--I love a man with all my soul and body--and body, mind you, and he goes out, or goes in, as you say. No matter, he goes out of my life. I lose him, he is not here. I cannot feel and respond to his love. I cannot feel his strong arms about me. My God!" Her voice came with increasing vehemence. "I want his arms. I want him as he is. I want his body--I cannot love a ghost. No! no!" she added in a low, hopeless voice. "When he goes out I lose him, and lose him as mine forever. Oh, what do I care for your spirit love! The old Greeks were right. They are shades--shades, mere shades beyond the river. I don't want a shade. I want a man, a strong, warm- hearted, brave man. Yes, a good man, a man with a soul. But a man, not a soul. My God!" she moaned, "how terrible it all is! And it came so near to us to-day. But I should not be saying this to you, played out as you are. I am going to bed. Good-night."
She put out her hand and gripped his in warm, strong, muscular fingers. "Thank God, yes God, if you like, you are still--still in this outer circle,"--she broke into a laugh, but there was little mirth in her laughter--"this good old outer circle, yet awhile."
"Yes," said Barry simply but very earnestly, "thank God. It is a good world. But with all my soul I believe there is a better, and all that is best in love and life we shall take with us. Good- night," he added, "and thank you, at least for the will and the attempt to save my life."
"Sleep well," she said.
"I hope so," he replied, "but I doubt it."
His doubts, it turned out, were justified, for soon after midnight Mr. Howland was aroused by Harry Hobbs in a terror of excitement.
"Will you come to Mr. Dunbar, sir?" he cried. "I think he is dying."
"Dying?" Mr. Howland was out of his cot immediately and at Barry's side. He found him fighting for breath, his eyes starting from his head, a look of infinite distress on his face.
"My dear boy, what is it? Hobbs says you are dying."
"That con-con-founded--fool--shouldn't have--called you. I forbade-- him," gasped Barry.
"But, my dear boy, what is the matter? Are you in pain?"
"No, no,--it's--nothing--only an old--friend come back--for a call,--a brief one--let us--hope. It's only asthma. Looks bad-- feels worse--but really--not at all dangerous."
"What can be done, my boy?" asked Mr. Howland, greatly relieved, as are most laymen, when the trouble can be named. It is upon the terror inspired by the unknown that the medical profession lives.
"Tell Harry--to make--a hot drink," said Barry, but Harry had already forestalled the request, and appeared with a steaming bowl. "This will--help. Now--go to--bed, Mr. Howland. Do, please.--You distress--me by remaining--there. Harry will--look after me. Good-night."
Next morning Barry appeared at breakfast a little washed out in appearance, but quite bright and announcing himself fit for anything.
The incident, however, was a determining factor in changing the party's plans. Already they were behind their time schedule, to Mr. Cornwall Brand's disgust. The party was too large and too heavily encumbered with impedimenta for swift travel. Besides, as Paula said, "Why rush? Are we not doing the Peace River Country? We are out for a good time and we are having it." Paula was not interested in mines and oil. She did not announce just what special interest was hers. She was "having a good time" and that was reason enough for leisurely travel. In consequence their provisions had run low.
It was decided to send forward a scouting party to the Hudson's Bay Post some thirty miles further on to restock their commissariat. Accordingly Knight and Fielding were despatched on this mission, the rest of the party remaining in camp.
"A lazy day or two in camp is what we all need," said Mr. Howland. "I confess I am quite used up myself, and therefore I know you must all feel much the same."
On the fourth day the scouting party appeared.
"There's war!" cried Knight as he touched land. He flung out a bundle of papers for Mr. Howland.
"War!" The word came back in tones as varied as those who uttered it.
"War!" said Mr. Howland. "Between whom?"
"Every one, pretty much," said Knight. "Germany, France, Russia, Austria, Servia, Belgium, and Britain."
"Britain!" said Barry and Duff at the same moment.
"Britain," answered Knight solemnly.
The men stood stock still, looking at each other with awed faces.
"War!" again said Barry. "With Germany!" He turned abruptly away from the group and said, "I am going."
"Going! Going where?" said Mr. Howland.
"To the war," said Barry quietly.
"To the war! You? A clergyman?" said Mr. Howland.
"You? You going?" cried Paula. At the pain in her voice her father and Brand turned and looked at her. Disturbed by what he saw, her father began an excited appeal to Barry.
"Why, my dear sir, it would surely be most unusual for a man like you to go to war," he began, and for quite ten minutes he proceeded to set forth in fluent and excited speech a number of reasons why the idea of Barry's going to war was absurd and preposterous to him. It must be confessed that Barry was the only one of the men who appeared to give much heed to him. They seemed to be dazed by the stupendous fact that had been announced to them, and to be adjusting themselves to that fact.
When he had finished his lengthy and excited speech Brand took up the discourse.
"Of course you don't think of going immediately," he said. "We have this expedition in hand."
The men made no reply. Indeed, they hardly seemed to hear him.
"You don't mean to say," continued Brand with a touch of indignation in his voice, addressing Duff, the recognised leader of the party, "that you would break your engagement with this party, Mr. Duff?"
Duff glanced at him, then looked away in silence, studying the horizon. The world was to him and to them all a new world within the last few minutes.
His silence appeared to enrage Brand. He turned to Barry.
"Do you mean to tell me, sir, that you approve of this? Do you consider it right and fair that these men should break their engagement with us? We have gone to great expense, we have extremely important interests at stake in this exploration."
Barry stood looking at him in silence, as if trying to take in exactly what he meant, then in a low and awed tone he said:
"It is war! War with Germany!"
"We cannot help that," cried Brand. "What difference can this war make to you here a hundred miles from civilisation? These men are pledged to us."
"Their first pledge is to their country, sir," said Barry gravely.
"But why should you, a Canadian, take part in this war?" argued Mr. Howland. "Surely this is England's war."
Then Barry appeared to awake as from a dream.
"Yes, it is England's war, it is Britain's war, and when Britain is at war my country is at war, and when my country is at war I ought to be there."
"God in heaven!" shouted Duff, striking him on the back, "you have said it! My country is at war, and I must be there. As God hears me, I am off to-day--now."
"Me, too!" said Knight with a shout.
"I'm going with you, sir," said little Harry Hobbs, ranging himself beside Barry.
"Count me in," said Tom Fielding quietly. "I have a wife and three kids, but--"
"My God!" gasped Duff. "My wife." His face went white. He had not yet fully adjusted himself to the fact of war.
"Why, of course," said Mr. Howland, "you married men won't be called upon. You must be reasonable. For instance you, Mr. Duff, cannot leave your wife."
But Duff had recovered himself.
"My wife, sir? My wife would despise me if I stayed up here. Sir, my wife will buckle on my belt and spurs and send me off to the war," cried Duff in a voice that shook as he spoke.
With a single stride Barry was at his side, offering both his hands.
"Thank God for men like you! And in my soul I believe the Empire has millions of them."
"Does your Empire demand that you desert those you have pledged yourself to?" enquired Brand in a sneering tone.
"Oh, Cornwall!" exclaimed Paula, "how can you?"
"Why, Brand," said Mr. Howland, "that is unworthy of you."
"We will see you into safety, sir," said Duff, swinging round upon Brand, "either to the Hudson's Bay Company's post, where you can get Indians, or back to Edmonton, but not one step further on this expedition do I go."
"Nor I," said Knight.
"Nor I," said Fielding.
"Nor I," said Barry.
"Nor I," said Harry Hobbs.
"You are quite right, sir," said Mr. Howland, turning to Barry. "I apologise to you, sir, to all of you Canadians. I am ashamed to confess that I did not at first get the full meaning of this terrific thing that has befallen your Empire. Were it the U.S.A. that was in a war of this kind, hell itself would not keep me from going to her aid. Nor you either, Brand. Yes, you are right. Go to your war. God go with you."
He shook hands solemnly with them one by one. "I only wish to God that my country were with you, too, in this thing," he said when he had performed this function.
"Father," cried Paula, "do you think for one minute that Uncle Sam won't be in this? You put it down," she said, swinging 'round upon Barry, "where it will jump at you some day: We will be with you in this scrap for all we are worth."
"And now for the march," said Barry, who seemed almost to assume command. Then removing his hat and lifting high his hand, he said in a voice thrilling with solemn reverence, "God grant victory to the right! God save the king!"
Instinctively the men took off their hats and stood with bared and bent heads, as if sharing in a solemn ritual. They stood with millions upon millions of their kin in the old mother lands, and scattered wide upon the seas, stood with many millions more of peoples and nations, pledging to this same cause of right, life and love and all they held dear, and with hearts open to that all- searching eye, praying that same prayer, "God grant victory to the right. Amen and amen. We ask no other."
Then they faced to their hundred miles' trek en route to the war.